Join 3,427 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Godspeed, Dr. Kalpana Chawla.
February 3, 2003 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Godspeed, Dr. Kalpana Chawla. But how will India replace a girl like you? In Karnal, India, where this fallen Columbia astronaut was born, it is rarer -- and more dangerous -- to be a female fetus than a real live girl space shuttle jock. Statistics suggest that the state has taken the cruel art of sex selection, in which female fetuses are aborted, to new heights. Among children under 6, it has 820 girls for every 1,000 boys according to the 2001 census. (NY Times link)
posted by jellybuzz (19 comments total)

 
wow, this is begging to start a flamewar...
My question would be does the fact that there are fewer females to males mean that women become more impowered in making decisions as to thier own life (such as possibly getting the ability to chose a mate)? I know this has been going on in china for a number of years, is there any research into the cultural effect?

let the trolling begin...
posted by NGnerd at 9:56 AM on February 3, 2003


In Karnal, India, where this fallen Columbia astronaut was born, it is rarer -- and more dangerous -- to be a female fetus than a real live girl space shuttle jock.

That's not true at all. There are presumably hundreds or thousands of female fetuses in Karnal. There has been one (and now there are zero) "real live girl space shuttle jocks." I count a 100% fatality rate for the shuttle jocks. So it appears that female fetuses are both common and have a lower mortality rate.
posted by waldo at 10:07 AM on February 3, 2003


Jellybuzz, I realize that you've an axe to grind, but I like it better when your kind waves grisly posters in the faces of children. That at least displays some mania that's amusing.

Coming here and stating absolutely that a fetus is alive and therefore can be endangered is just weak, especially for a FPP. It's a nice day! Grab your gorey sign, join your friends and do some shrieking already!
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:32 AM on February 3, 2003


Mayor Curley,

There's never been any debate about whether or not a fetus is alive - it's definitely living. The debate is between people who believe fetuses are fully human and people who think the baby has to be born for it to count as human.

The whole abortion debate is stupid; it's a debate between people who don't want to end systemic sexism and people who think the best solution to it is surgical acts of violence. It comes down to:

Whom shall we screw? Women or babies?

How about neither?
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:19 AM on February 3, 2003


Sounds great eustace. And your solution is..?
posted by PrinceValium at 11:31 AM on February 3, 2003


waywaywaita minute! You guys are conflating two different issues here. If we put aside the abortion debate for a moment, the issue becomes the preference for male children.

If it didn't involve the destruction of an already conceived fetus, if women could somehow preprogram themselves to have children at a certain time, would anyone disagree with that right? It'd be better for everyone if mom only has children she's ready for. (Though perhaps some would object to it on religious grounds or something - ) But if the same women could preprogram which sex her child would be, and the population at large preferred male children by 25%, that would reflect ongoing sexism in the culture, which many would argue is bad.

The abortion debate is secondary to this.

The whole abortion debate is stupid; it's a debate between people who don't want to end systemic sexism and people who think the best solution to it is surgical acts of violence. It comes down to:

Whom shall we screw? Women or babies?

How about neither?


Can you explain in practical terms what you mean?

For people who are pro-choice, abortion is not hurting babies. Babies are nurtured into being over nine long months and need a huge amount of care for the first few years to really develop into human beings. Abortion ends a pregnancy before a baby is brought into being: the process is interrupted before completion. Yes, it's sad, the way giving up on a project before it gets off the ground is sad. But to pro choice people, it's not the same as the death of a baby.
posted by mdn at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2003


I was astounded to see abortion referred to as a "cruel art" in the New York Times. I wonder if it just slipped through editing, or was a deliberate statement of a renegade editor -- it certainly doesn't seem consistent with the Times's editorial stance supporting abortion at will, for any reason or none.
posted by MattD at 11:45 AM on February 3, 2003


well said, mb. the issue is preference for male children. it wasn't meant to be a referendum on abortion.

thus, curley, my only "ax to grind" is that when girls are wiped out of the population by virtue of any kind of gender selection (hey, they used to just drown 'em, no legislation, "shrieking" or "grisly posters"), no actual women will be alive to exercise choice.

as to NGnerd's question -- well, there's always the supply & demand analysis. some would argue fewer women make the gender more valuable. like diamonds.

however, power in numbers, my friend. other criteria being
equal, a smaller, outnumbered group is typically politically and socially weaker. think of votes. when women are one third or one quarter of the population, how will they be more empowered to continue fighting for equality and position in business and government when, at half the global population, these goals remain elusive?

i fear when there is a shortage of females to produce the next generation of males, the rights of women to choose careers or become astronauts like kalpana will diminish even further. because in india and china they may not like girl babies. but when one pops out, they sure need her ovaries.
posted by jellybuzz at 11:57 AM on February 3, 2003


There's more biographical info on Chawla in this article (via Monkey Media Report.) Some other inspiring Indian women were featured not long ago on Adventure Divas. And of course there's always Arundhati Roy.

I would think that with all these inspiring examples, the status of women in Indian society has to change eventually.
posted by homunculus at 1:01 PM on February 3, 2003


Jellybuzz, i'm glad to hear you weren't looking to start a fight, but i might suggest a more careful wording in the future so as to go to the heart of the issue without making a pitstop in heavy shouting material.
I did a quick google search on "china female babies" and there's a ton of material out there (how we're ignoring it, and how china views it's own laws). Of course these countries still have a long way to come, with statements like:

At present, China is still at the primary stage of socialism and remains comparatively underdeveloped in economic and cultural development. Therefore, certain provisions on the legal rights of women and guarantee mechanisms need to be further improved. Along with the in-depth development of China's modernization drive, the country's legal system on the protection of women's rights and interests will be perfected.

but it's such an internal thing, both cultural and governmental that we can't really force our own perspectives on them, but hope that they eventually come to see woman more as a valuable part of the society and less as a reproductive method.

As for wether numbers really make power, i don't know. Your probably right though that making females more valuable for reproductive needs will make them more likely to be limited to just that (because they become a needed commodity). What may be more dangerous is the millions of single horny males (in both india and china) who can't get a date to save thier lives. Maybe they should just switch to a polyamorous system.
posted by NGnerd at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2003


I'd just like to point out that I was misquoted-- I clearly used the preferred spelling of "axe."
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:37 PM on February 3, 2003


Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and his theories on the number of missing women in India are immediately relevant here. Sen is less focused on abortion per se than how distorted sex ratios can have unintended consequences for economic development, gender relations, women's equality, etc. etc.
posted by jonp72 at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2003


> At present, China is still at the primary stage of socialism

Funny ha ha. China is a mature fascist state.
posted by jfuller at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2003


The guys who have articulate the current Chinese political and economic system in Marxist terms have the worst jobs. "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" forsooth!
posted by MattD at 4:27 PM on February 3, 2003


For people who are pro-choice, abortion is not hurting babies. Babies are nurtured into being over nine long months and need a huge amount of care for the first few years to really develop into human beings. Abortion ends a pregnancy before a baby is brought into being: the process is interrupted before completion. Yes, it's sad, the way giving up on a project before it gets off the ground is sad. But to pro choice people, it's not the same as the death of a baby.


Geez, a paragraph or so of metaphore is not a sound philosophical argument, and it certanly isn't proof of anything.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 PM on February 3, 2003


Indian college remembers astronaut
posted by homunculus at 8:03 PM on February 3, 2003


This paper (which I just found on the internet and don't vouch for accuracy-wise) has a rather striking table at the begriming showing that the mortality rate for girls between the ages of 1 and 4 in India is three times higher than for boys. That's way out of sync with the other countries in the region where the ratios are around 110 girls for every 100 boys. That seems to me to suggest that India's sex selection problems aren't just limited to abortion, although that sure sounds like a problem as well.

Incidently, one area that I hope pro-choice and pro-life folks can agree on is that society should seek to find ways to minimize the need/demand for abortion. This strikes me as a case where women are choosing abortion mainly because society makes the costs of having a female child practically unbearable for the parents. abstinence-only education or barriers to adoption probably have a similar (although much less pronounced) effect on abortion in the U.S. In both cases, society is actually taking meaningful choice away from women, by pushing them into situations where abortion seems to be the only way out of a grim situation. Ironic, I suppose, but also very sad.

"Cruel art" also struck me as a bit funny. Not the "cruel" part as it is undoubtedly cruel to essentially coerce abortion through custom and economic discrimination. But to call it an "art" is bizarre. What exactly is artistic about a set of economic and cultural incentives to abort your pregnancy?
posted by boltman at 8:51 PM on February 3, 2003


Geez, a paragraph or so of metaphore is not a sound philosophical argument, and it certanly isn't proof of anything.

It isn't metaphor; it's just a fact of life. Consciousness isn't instantaneous. Fetuses are the start of a long process, and aborting them is different than killing a full term baby, which really is different from killing a 5 year old, but we don't make distinctions once the child is born, because at that point no one's capabilities are directly diminished by it (it can be adopted or something).
posted by mdn at 9:00 PM on February 3, 2003


Somewhat off topic, here's a good article on Hindu nationalism in India: The Other Face of Fanaticism.
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2003


« Older ladies gents and babies, the 2003 sxsw web awards ...  |  It's kind of weird how people ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments